Monday, 14 March 2016

Hornets Bang Bears in the Butts

Coventry 16 - Hornets 58

The sun shines out of Coventry's Butts Park Stadium

In his programme notes, Coventry coach Tom Tsang stated that it was his intention for the Bears to ‘get in the arm wrestle’ at the Butts Park Stadium. He might as well have dispensed with the word ‘arm’ as, having seen his side handed a first-half lesson in high-tempo, direct football, the home side emerged after the break to grapple, wrangle and wring every last drop of momentum out of a game that had been a fast-receding dot from the outset.

Hornets dominated from the moment in the second minute when Paul Crook gathered a dink kick only to have his effort struck off: Hornets bizzarely brought back to feed a scrum. No matter - just 90 seconds later fast hands to the right edge off a repeat set found Chris Riley with just enough room to squeeze in by the flag.

They were in again after 8 minutes when Ben Moores gathered his charge-down to gallop 60 metres - play moved wide for Jo Taira to open his Hornets account with a blockbusting try.

On 13 minutes Hornets turned the screw: a quick, direct set had Coventry back-pedalling as Danny Yates jinked through flapping tackles to score. Crooky with his first of the day. Hornets ahead of the clock at 0-14.

Straight from the kick-off Hornets were on the attack: a big drive from Samir Tahraoui, Corey Lee backing himself up the touchline, just scooped out of play by Hunte.

As the sceond quarter ticked over, Hornets produced some fantastic fluid football to effectively end the game as a contest.

On 23 minutes a skittering Crooky break, the Ginger General drawing the last defender to send Jordan Case in for a try. On 26 minutes Chris Riley stepping through traffic to slip Danny Yates under the black dot. 29 minutes, Jo Taira hitting a Crooky flat-ball like a train. Unstoppable. Crooky three from three and Hornets out-of sight at 0-32.

During this whirlwind six minutes, Coventry subbed prop Jack Morrison - asked how it was, he replied ‘Too Fast’. Indeed, this was a key issue. For large tracts of this game Coventry looked woefully out of their depth - and when Stu Biscomb hit Ben Warrilow with an absolute bell-ringer of a tackle on 38 minutes, it took 15 minutes of concerned medical attention to remove him from the field.

Referee Mr Smith put the ‘incident’ on report - alledgedly for tipping Warrilow beyond the vertical, but while Biscomb hit the lad with everything, it didn’t look like foul play to us.

Mr Smith went on to puzzle onlookers when - with the ball dead - he allowed Coventry to feed a scrum after the hooter. Half time 0-32.

Having spent 40 minutes effectively playing the role of cones around which Hornets worked their way through the playbook, Coventry visibly lifted their effort in the second half - starting with a good kick-chase and forcing an early drop-out after first Chris Riley, then Wayne English couldn’t find an escape route from the in-goal.

Hornets’ response was swift and clinical. Having ridden-out the Bears’ pressure, they marched straight up the other end where Jo Taira bagged his hat-trick, wrestling free from a poor tackle to score on a last tackle sneak up the blind-side. 0-36.

There was then another long delay, this time for an injury to Hornets replacement prop Jack Francis. Carried from the field, his iced knee and crutches didn’t look good.

Hornets shuffled the pack a bit and, on 49 minutes Jordan Case hit a flat-pass from Alex McClurg to ease Hornets past the 40-mark. This was Coventry’s cue to step-up their attempts to break-up the game as much as possible.

Needled in the tackle, Corey Lee responded to concede a daft penalty and - after yet another lengthy delay for an injury to Alex McClurg - Coventry took advantage of a reorganising Hornets defence. Medforth slumping in from a metre on a ripple of apathy from the home fans.

Hornets responded positively: two monster drives from Woz Thompson and Samir Taharoui had the Bears in all kinds of touble, and the ball was shuttled left to Chris Riley who blasted through some ordinary tackling to grab his second of the day. Crooky slotted the extras: 4-46.

As Coventry continued to scrap and scramble their way forward, they got a lucky break on 66 minutes - a wayward ball hitting the deck, Reid gifted a freak try via a wrong-footed defence. White the two and, somehow, Coventry in double figures at 10-46. Again, Hornets’ reaction was immediate.

A Wayne English kick-return stretched the home defence and when Corey Lee took a pass with 60 metres to run, he duly obliged, leaving defenders in his wake. Crooky sublimely off the touchline and Hornets cruising past the half-century at 10-52.

To Coventry’s credit, they kept plugging away and when Hughes mugged Hornets from acting half in the 77th minute, it gave the game a veneer of a contest at 16-52 (White the extras).

But Hornets finished on a high: regathering a short kick-off, a direct approach-set and Wayne English taking a tidy James Dandy pass to score in style right on the hooter. Crooky adding the two and Hornets comfortable winners at 16-58.

Certainly, for 40 minutes Hornets looked slick and assured - but once Coventry created their black-hole of anti-football (aided by an increasingly picky referee), it sucked the energy from the game.

In the wash-up, this was a ruthlessly one-sided contest. Having bombed at least three other opportunities - and with Paul Crook having, by his standards, an ordinary afternoon with the boot (7 from 11 attempts) - Hornets could have won far more convincingly, but it’d be churlish to complain when we score eleven tries away from home.

Whilst there were plently of contenders for Man of the Match, we can’t really see past Jo Taira - a clattering hat-trick in only his second game hints at great things to come.